Life Story Celebration
Wednesday, October 18, 2023
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
Paw Paw Location
60900 Michigan 40
Paw Paw, MI 49079
Where food, drinks, and stories will be shared.
At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Quiet and content, Alfred J. Santoro lived a life rich in faith and family. Never one to require the spotlight, Al was a devoted family man who was perfectly happy at home and surrounded by his loved ones. Humble and kind, he showed tremendous love for his family and was deeply loved. A wonderful husband, father, brother, and uncle, Al will long be remembered and so very missed.
The 1950s proved a decade of exciting new possibilities and previously unknown comforts. Ray Kroc began franchising McDonald’s Restaurants, Mr. Potato Head and Barbie started finding their way into children’s toyboxes, and Super Glue made it possible to fix household treasures. Tony Bennett sang his way into living room radios, and Lucille Ball premiered “I Love Lucy.” Nowhere was the sense of hope for the future more celebrated than in the hearts of Alfred and Rose (Persico) Santoro as they welcomed their son Al on August 1, 1951, in Monaca, Pennsylvania.
One of five children, Al grew up in a home rooted in tradition and faith. The family cheered on the Steelers, attending many games, and Al was a lifelong fan of all the Pittsburgh teams. He saved every ticket from every sporting event he attended. A paperboy, Al made mere pennies for his route, but he enjoyed the job. He also enjoyed helping his father, who was a bricklayer, during the summer months. Along with sharing close bonds with his siblings, Al was very close to his cousin, Lawrence Persico. Al played baseball and football as a kid and all through high school, but his childhood days weren’t completely free of mischief. Once, when Al was just eight or nine, he snuck out of the house. When his mom found out, she took him down to the jail in their small town to see a friend who was a police officer. She walked him into the jail cell and, needless to say, Al learned the lesson.
After graduating from Monaca High School, Al pursued a bachelor's degree at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, which was close to home. With signature discipline and focus, he graduated with his degree and became a high school math teacher in the Finger Lakes for a time. A true showing of his compassionate side and devotion to family, when his mom needed help caring for his father, Al moved home to support them.
While working at Southside Hospital in Pittsburgh, Al had the good fortune of meeting his co-worker, Sandra Greives. Al was attracted to Sandra's beautiful smile and joyful personality; she thought he was good-looking and had a lot of class. As they grew to know one another better, Sandra recognized Al as a true family man. With their hearts set on sharing the future, the couple married. In 1988, Al and Sandra moved to Kalamazoo, where Al started working in finance for Borgess Hospital. He helped with insurance claims and billing and loved his job. Though they thought they'd only stay in the area for just five years, it’s now been over 35 years!
In time, Al and Sandra were blessed to become parents. Anthony and Natalie quickly became the centers of their worlds and Al's heart's delight. The family attended St. Monica Catholic Church, and Al never missed mass. He was a proud father who enjoyed sharing his love for all the Pittsburgh teams with his son and coaching his kids' sports. They attended Pirates, Penguins, and Steelers games whenever they could, saving the tickets as souvenirs of course. Al enjoyed cheering Anthony and Natalie, proudly watching them chase their dreams on many soccer, football, and baseball fields. For years, Al voluntarily worked on the football chain gang at Hackett Catholic Prep. He also wrote letters to famous coaches and athletes in hopes that, in reply, he would receive a note or an autograph to share with his kids and inspire them. After so many years, their basement and their lives are full of inspiration. A strong role model for healthy living, Al walked ten miles every morning, getting up early to walk before going to work. For Al, the morning walk was not optional. Not even the worst weather would deter him. After he retired, he continued walking every morning, but he cut down to five miles. It still offered him a sense of peace to start every day.
As a young man, Al was named paperboy of the month and won a small amount of money. An article was written about him and in the article, he mentioned he’d save the money for flight school. He clipped the article and kept it for many years. In his 40s, he used the article to help convince Sandra to let him pursue his dream of becoming a pilot. He proudly earned his pilot's license and was a member of Eagle Air Club at the Kalamazoo Airport where he could rent a plane. Over the years, he enjoyed surprising his kids by flying to small towns to grab a milkshake or quick bite. Another interest of Al's was day trading and the financial markets. Always taking the time to print out his numbers the night before, make his plan for the next day, ready the coffee maker, and follow up the day with handwritten notes of lessons learned. Anthony could always expect a late morning text message outlining his day’s performance.
Al was exceptionally proud of his Italian heritage. He made pizzelle cookies every Christmas and was a proud member of the Kalamazoo Italian American Club and Sons of Italy in Monaca, Pennsylvania. His family gathered yearly for the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve, and his mom made everything from scratch. When she knew Al was coming home, her world lit up.
Clearly, life feels far less certain in the absence of Al's steadfast love and companionship. As we face the future without Al, may we find much comfort in our many treasured memories. May we also find comfort in the honor of carrying Al's legacy forward. In each moment, we confidently meet the day's challenges, embrace the moment as a gift, balance hard work with restorative quiet, cheer on our loved one's endeavors, and choose faith and hope over fear, we celebrate the many ways Al made the world a better place. In this way, we keep his spirit alive and inspiring others as he so inspired each of us.
Al Santoro of Kalamazoo, age 72, died on October 12, 2023. Al was born August 1, 1951, in Monaca, PA, to Alfred and Rose (Persico) Santoro, who precede him in death, along with his niece, Marie. Surviving are his wife, Sandra; children: Anthony (Margaret) Santoro and Natalie Santoro; siblings: Carol Petrella, Carl Santoro, Janice Santoro, and Betty Jo Dockter; and nieces & nephews: Nicholas, Carrie, Carla, Elizabeth, Allison, and Emily.
Please join us at a Life Story Celebration where food, drinks, and stories will be shared on Wednesday, October 18, from 5-7 PM at Betzler & Thompson Life Story Funeral Homes, 60900 M40 Hwy, Paw Paw (269) 657-3870. Mass will be officiated by Bishop Lawrence Persico and celebrated Thursday, October 19, at 10 AM at St. Augustine Cathedral. A reception will follow. Visit Al's webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and sign his guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Monica Catholic Church or Catholic Schools of Greater Kalamazoo FBO Hackett Catholic Prep.